With an impending birthday ending in 0 coming up I’m faced with two tasks. 1. Do I really want to have a party (I’m not really where I thought I would be in my life turning 40, single and financially a bit wobbly) and 2. How do I invite people? My 30th birthday invites were well thought out and printed 2 months in advance. Clever postcards with a photo of myself for every year to date and the party details on the back with the invitees address and a stamp. But do people still send out printed invites anymore? I don’t even know the addresses of half the people I’d invite. With Facebook events and paperless post apps so easy to access these days, is it acceptable to use for a milestone birthday? And what about the sending of birthday wishes. I know I’m guilty of just flicking off a text or Facey message to many of my friends on their big day.

A recent Omnipoll survey revealed sending a message, for a birthday or other important occasion, by text or using social media is perceived as a cop out as Australians overwhelmingly prefer to receive a handwritten card. While sending messages for birthdays or other celebrations using digital channels such as social media, e-mail or text may be popular (almost 90 percent of the 1225 study participants had done it in the past 12 months), there was no doubt that Australians of all ages, including younger generations, feel more special when someone sends a card.

The vast majority of respondents (84 percent), felt that when they received a card in the mail, the person sending the card had gone to a lot more effort, which they highly valued, but only 51 percent of those surveyed had sent a card in the previous year.

Melbourne-based clinical psychologist Dr Melissa Keogh said: “People crave more authentic experiences and meaningful connections, and this study shows that digital communications are far less likely to make someone feel special. The survey’s major finding was that 67 percent of people believe that receiving a card in the mail would make them feel more special than receiving a message by social media, but if they had to choose only one method of communicating, just 31 percent of people believe they would actually make the effort to send a card themselves,” she said.

“There are lots of reasons why we don’t always do it ourselves, even though we understand its impact. But this survey confirms it may be one of the most effective ways of showing someone close to us that we care about them.”

The survey commissioned by Hallmark shows Australians understand the emotional power of a card, with 81 percent having bought a card over the past year. Birthday cards are still the most popular occasion (76 percent) followed by Christmas (63 percent). Interestingly, more people say they’d buy a Mother’s Day card (36 percent) compared with a Father’s Day card (27 percent). Sorry dads!

Although younger generations (the millennials aged between 18 and 34) are more inclined to perceive social media as having a positive impact on relationships – more than a third had also sent a card in the previous year.

Almost half (47 percent) of those under 35 felt social media had a positive impact on relationships, but nearly a quarter (24 percent) felt its impact was negative.

Women are still more likely than men to send a card for a birthday, anniversary or other occasion (tells us something we don’t know!).

Of the people who valued receiving a card, rather than a text or message on social media:

  • 47 percent valued the time and effort it had taken for someone to send them a card;
  • 32 percent felt sending a card was a more personal approach and allowed for a more personal message which showed the other person valued the relationship; and
  • 11 percent like that a card is tangible and more permanent – so it can be easily kept or displayed whereas social media or text messages cannot.

“What is interesting is that, in the age of the internet and smart phones, cards are possibly even more effective than when they were the only common choice – especially if they have a handwritten note or a design which is carefully selected – in showing someone that you care about them,” Dr Keogh said. “And it is psychologically beneficial for the person sending the card, as well as the person receiving it.”

Hallmark are launching a new campaign #CareEnough later this year to encourage Australians to pick up a pen and send a greeting card to someone they care about.

So I guess the results are in. I better start designing my birthday invites. If only I could decide where to have the party!

x Sarah